Feb 27, 2009
Asking for chaos
by Dr Masooda Bano The Supreme Court decision to bar Sharif brothers from holding a public office is by all interpretations bad news for Pakistan. The public acceptability of the decision is bound to be weak when the credibility of the court itself remains in question. With the lawyers’ movement, asking for reinstatement of the deposed judges, regaining momentum, this decision is yet another reminder of the importance of supporting this movement. If there was any doubt about the intention of the PPP government, President Zardari’s decision to impose Governor’s rule in Punjab gives the final proof that the talk of building coalitions and partnership was never sincere. It is clear that the PPP wants to marginalize PML-N and gain control over Punjab. The only issue is that it is doing it so blatantly and at one level so foolishly that it is only going to damage its own repute in the process. If one wants to see how personal ambition of a few can spoil historic opportunities for national reform, the PPP take over of the government since the 2008 elections provides a classic though very tragic example of that. It is now even difficult to recall that strong sense of enthusiasm shared by the public in the immediate aftermath of the elections. The lawyers’ movement had won. The much-hated Musharraf regime had been forced to quit and the leaders of the two main political parties were talking of having learnt their lessons and building a united front against the military. Following from that were many hopes of major institutional reforms, the first one of which was the almost definite promise of reinstating the deposed judges and therefore restoring the independence of the judiciary. It did not take very long for the PPP to start breaking all the promises and pledges. Nor did the government seem to have any sense of embarrassment over failing to initiate any development programmes to benefit the ordinary public. At the same time, this has been the period of rising insecurity in the country. The militancy, which was previously confined mainly to the tribal belt, has now spilled all over NWFP. The government kept supporting a military campaign which randomly selected its target rather than putting in place a clearly thought through strategy of dealing with the problem. At a time when uncertainty in Swat demands that settling that issue be the priority of the government, the country has the President announcing Governor Rule in Punjab, a province which by all means was functioning normally and where the government was by no means on verge of collapse. From the very beginning PPP had given away its intentions towards PML-N government in Punjab when it appointed Salman Taseer as the Governor, a person of very questionable association with the Musharraf regime, and known to be opposed to the Sharifs. Clearly, the intention to let PML-N work properly in Punjab was never there. Now the question is that what this politics of confrontation is going to lead to. For the PML-N, what ever the immediate losses, in the medium term, this is bound to build its public credibility not reduce it. The sufferer will be the country on the whole. The already inefficient PPP government is now going to get further embroiled in petty politics as its tries to buy over members of the Punjab parliament to try to form its own government. It cannot run Punjab under governor’s rule for too long. The government moves are bound to further energise street protests against it. Also, in such a climate the lawyers’ movement is bound to gain further momentum. All of this will take the government focus further away from any real reform or development programmes. It is also bound to take the focus away from curtailing militancy in NWFP. Why make the country face such chaos is a question to which the PPP leadership does not have a convincing answer. The low performance of the PPP government now combined with open friction with the PML-N will also generally set back the democratic process in the country. The reason military has repeatedly succeeded to re-enter Pakistani politics and stay is that the public trust in politicians has been low. After 2008 elections, the hope was that the leaders of the political parties have learnt their lessons and will now live up to public expectations. However, the performance of the PPP leadership, is again leading to the same old cynicism about politicians. This is, for sure, not good for democracy in Pakistan. Such behaviour is only preparing the ground for the military to be welcomed back once more in the political arena. This by no means is good news.